Hegel, Recognition and Assimilation: From Legal Concepts to Biology.

Hegel places recognition at the centre of human personality and social relations. There are various accounts of where recognition arises, and how.

Recognition in the Phenomenology
The most famous discussion takes place in Phenomenology of Spirit. At this point, self-consciousness is where recognition arises. Consciousness requires self-consciousness. Self-consciousness requires awareness that something is conscious of the self. That could be the self becoming conscious of itself and it could be another self that becomes conscious of the first self. The two selves, or aspects of th self, become locked in combat. That leads the way to the struggle to the death in which the winner becomes the winner becomes the lord, and the loser becomes the bondsman.

Recognition in the Philosophy of Right I
The Philosophy of Right takes up at least two forms of recognition. The first arises in instituting private property. The owner of property demands that others recognise the personality of the owner. This seems far from the struggle to the death which institutes social relations in the Phenomenology. Recognition now arises from the tautology that what I won is mine (this is sweeping summary, but I believe it captures the spirit of Hegel’s argument.) This tautology, which is never just a tautology in Hegel, because the apparent tautology always states a real difference between two ways of grasping the statement that is repeated.

Recognition in the Philosophy of Right II
Recognition appears later in the Philosophy of Right, when law emerges from the organisation of needs. In general, recognition is a development beyond mere need. Economic needs are organised through political economy, or a market economy. Recognition arises in the legal procedures which settle property disputes. Recognition always exist as a a way of overcoming mere need. It exists in overcoming the merely animal. Law saves us from the mere materiality of pursuing property in the open markets. Law is now emerging though it must already have appeared in the institution of private property. An economy described as political economy, is going to need more and more law to settle contractual issues. The contractualist approach is more appropriate than when law exists as divine will

Struggle of Life with the Non-Organic in Philosophy of Nature
Here life is struggling to overcome the non-organic. This is the part of Hegel which still attracts opprobium, the adventures of the dialectic in the material world of the natural sciences. We can still make sense of this by focusing on the issue of energy, more is required for organic states than non-organic states. This involves Hegel talking about the quantitative becoming qualitative, which is not really something anyone quotes in order to convince someone that Hegl is an important and worthy philosopher. Hegel is still maybe right to emphasise that nature becomes more complex and more self-organising in organic bodies. The defeat and assimiliation of the non-organic really belongs with the struggle of the Phenomenology. The teleology here is maybe not completely absent in Darwinian evolution. This surely rests on a general tendency of nature to become more and more complex and self-organising in the movement from matter to organism. I would not want to endorse all of Hegel’s dialectic of nature, or revive vitalism in the philosophy of biology. Hegel does draw our attention to the way that categories of our consciousness inevitably intrude in our analyses of psychology, social thought, politics, economics and so on. Intrude in a way which is productive and enbabes thought to evolve.

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